While enjoying an unprecedented level of cooperation in recent years on numerous cross- border policy issues, the United States and Mexico face important challenges that will affect the long-term prosperity of North America. These challenges include the need for both countries to address the contentious issue of immigration, promote a shared vision for competitiveness in the 21st century and give government the tools to manage binational concerns along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Propositions again were a prominent feature on ballots in 2006, with voters in 37 states deciding on 226 statewide measures. The number of citizen-initiated measures, 79, was the third highest ever. The most common issues were eminent domain (12 states) and same-sex marriage (nine states). Michigan voters approved a measure to ban the use of racial preferences, and South Dakota voters repealed an abortion ban.

More than a year has passed since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, but the fallout continues. Three separate reports on the disaster from the U.S. House of Representatives, Senate and the White House have resulted in numerous criticisms, recommendations and requirements. Whether these reactive measures will result in a better prepared nation is yet to be determined. Underlying all of the challenges is the ongoing struggle between adequate funding and saving human life and property during a disaster. Given the recurring demands on state budgets as well as federal programs, this pressure shows no sign of abating. 

Strong tax collections in recent years have bolstered state treasuries and paved the way for initiatives in health care and education reforms. However, states are likely to face challenges from slowing tax collections, a resumption in Medicaid’s traditional spending growth, pressures in K-12 education, and new accounting requirements for employee health benefits.

After several years during which the number of state constitutional amendments had dropped from previous levels, amendment activity increased slightly, in that the number of amendments proposed in 2006 equaled the number of amendments proposed in 2004 and 2005 combined, and the number of amendments adopted in 2006 exceeded the total for 2004–05. Eight states enacted amendments prohibiting legalization of same-sex marriage, and another eight states approved amendments restricting use of the eminent domain power for private purposes. Multiple states approved amendments increasing the minimum wage and regulating the use of tobacco settlement funds. Also of note were a Michigan amendment banning affirmative action, a Missouri amendment ensuring continuation of embryonic stem cell research, and a Florida amendment requiring future constitutional changes to obtain 60 percent of the popular vote.

In recent years the movement of women into state-level offices has slowed following several decades of gains. This pattern of stagnation did not change following the 2006 elections which produced only modest changes—most positive but some negative—in the numbers of women officials. Efforts to actively recruit women for elected and appointed positions will be critical in determining what the future holds for women in state government.

CSG South

The major objective of this Regional Resource is to provide a broad sketch of how the 16 SLC states are working proactively toward luring the motion picture and television industries to work within their borders. In addition, this Regional Resource sets the stage for why the film industry landscape in the United States recently has become very competitive with states vying aggressively for the business of filmmakers by offering both new and revised financial and other incentives.

The new Democratic majority in Congress and the governorships will alter some federal policies and frustrate some presidential policy initiatives, but the centralizing course of federalism will endure, and most facets of coercive federalism will persist. State policy activism will remain vigorous, but the Supreme Court is not likely to resuscitate its federalism revolution.

An analysis of Census Bureau population estimates detailing the distribution of racial and ethnic groups within and across metropolitan areas since Census 2000 reveals the following: Hispanic and Asian populations are spreading out from their traditional metropolitan centers, while blacks’ shift towards the South is accelerating; the fastest growing metro areas for each  minority group in 2000–2004 are no longer unique, but closely parallel the fastest growing areas in the nation; Of the nation’s 361 metropolitan areas, 111 registered declines in white population from 2000 to 2004, with the largest absolute losses occurring in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles; and a strong multi-minority presence characterizes 18 large “melting pot” metro areas, and 27 large metro areas now have “majority minority” child populations.

State-local relations remain complex in 2007: Constitutional and statutory distribution of powers between states and general-purpose local governments differ in the various states. Trends include the creation of state control boards for local governments suffering fiscal distress, continued imposition of mandates and restraints, and increased use of joint powers authority.